I know you.
You are sadness.
You are the sadness that I forget is still there.
You are grief.
You are the grief that turns my hands to ice, constricts my chest, shortens my breath, clouds my mind and stares unblinking through my eyes.
You are the grief that while I speak and smile and continue my conversation, threatens to claim me.
You are the sadness that is lodged awkwardly in my solar plexus that wakes me up at night, yet has the power to paralyse me by day.
You are the grief that lingers and trails behind what should be straightforward conversations.
You are the grief that I acknowledge, but by whom I will not be defined.
I have stood strong inspite of you and have learnt strength because of you.
Through your pain, I have learnt compassion.
Yes, I have learnt strength, courage and wisdom.
When your tears come and they are not wanted, I have learnt how to calmly conquer you and put you in your place.
Grief, you are a part of who I have become. We must learn to walk together respectfully.
But I will be your master grief, you cannot have me.
You do not own me.
It is me that owns you.
Be assured that I love you,
I have done since day one.
I am proud of the person you are today
and of the woman you’ll soon become.
You have many gifts and talents,
too numerous to count.
You’re growing strong, kind and beautiful
both on the inside and the out.
Your creative spirit and energy
give joy to those you’re with.
May you continue to be giving… generous.
May you choose wisely how you live.
Sweetheart, when I’m no longer here,
reflect on these words I say.
Use your wisdom, love and patience
to guide you when you lose your way.
For life is like a journey.
It’s cliché, but it’s true.
Often we make silly mistakes,
but we can learn important lessons too.
So, move forward, don’t harbour regrets.
Laugh, cry, hug. Express yourself.
Tell people what they mean to you.
Look after both your physical and mental health.
Remember that you’re loved and cherished.
Never take for granted these simple things in life.
Often a moment of appreciation
can uplift you in times of strife.
Darling, be an encourager,
don’t belittle, mock, nor judge.
Instead, help others who aren’t as strong as you.
Forgive quickly. Don’t bear a grudge.
Be inquisitive, hardworking, diligent.
Gather knowledge. Seek the truth.
Continue learning throughout your life
in old age, not just in youth.
Have adventures and keep exploring.
The world is yours to discover and appreciate.
Experience and enjoy new cultures.
Show respect. Don’t allow your heart to hate.
Be a tenacious, vibrant woman
who strives to make our planet a better place.
Don’t be afraid of what others think.
Choose friends wisely. Act with grace.
Yes, have confidence, but humility too.
Fight intolerance, injustice and apathy.
Use humour to make others laugh.
Take time to listen. Be honest. Show empathy.
My darling, you will face many challenges
in our complex, chaotic society,
so remember that when the going gets tough,
have faith. Believe. Trust your own identity.
Your exciting future lies ahead of you and
if you use your gifts abundantly,
you’ll be an empowered, warrior woman,
the very person you were born to be.
‘I’m doing the world a favour’, I often tell myself,
particularly as I glance at the magazines upon the shelf.
On the cover of the majority, there are glossy, smug photos
of baby riddled celebrities adopting their polished, self-satisfied pose.
Exiting the corner shop, I almost stumble over a child
who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer and is whining loudly in the aisle.
The exasperated parent patiently oversees the situation.
She is ‘just trying to get some shopping done’. I sense her growing irritation.
I meet my friend for coffee. She begins to tell me how tired and low she feels,
but she doesn’t get to finish as from the buggy comes several high pitched squeals.
Now she has to dash off to a play date for her eldest.
She tries to get the youngest’ coat back on. Crying, he furiously resists.
Another friend says she’s lost her identity. She has no more sense of ‘self’.
Her children are often rude to her, defiant and it's affecting her mental health.
She blames herself and seems confused, questioning her parenting skills.
She wonders if she should ask the doctor for some ‘special’ little pills.
I log in to social media to message a long distance friend of mine,
images of people’s offspring flood the screen and demand my time.
Trying not to become distracted, I ‘like’ and ‘comment’ on a few.
Of course, these are lovely photos, but there are so many to scroll through.
At times, it’s overwhelming, our increasingly child obsessed society.
I witness pressure and expectation causing imbalance and insidious anxiety.
Success, peace and happiness one could say, are now subliminally measured
by one’s ability to bear a child, be a family and take a thousand photos treasured.
Children can indeed bring happiness, but should we be so quick to conform?
With our frazzled brains and short circuit minds, I see many struggling to ‘perform’
the role of ideal and perfect family whose ‘spinning plates’ steadily multiply.
From birth to adolescence, they don’t seem to diminish as the years goes by.
Then there’s obesity and poverty, war, starvation and depression.
Paranoia and megalomania grips our incompetent, corrupt politicians.
How can we protect our children? Why bring them into this crumbling world?
Even more anxiety to contemplate as around us chaos is unfurled.
Racism, hate fuelled terrorism, sexism, homophobia and persecution,
we also have to teach our kids how to battle for a fairer, kinder evolution.
This responsibility is ours to bear, as well as getting World Book Day outfits right.
Perhaps, not having children after all, is a blessing and not such a woeful plight.
Hearts beating, yours with mine.
Self-consciously holding you,
small, but sturdy babe.
Frog like foetal position.
New-born’s doughy feet,
knees folded, flattened to my front.
Feeling faint, sweating palms,
sudden somersault stomach.
A celestial connection sparks.
No one knows, not even you, yet.
Tendrils sprout, beginning to unfurl.
The invisible thread.
London’s streets shine.
Buggy splashing through recent rain.
Eyes gleefully gleaming under
spotty, speckled winter hat.
Content to be pushed, held, loved.
Up, down. Play park, museum, restaurant.
Through streets. Around leafy gardens.
Coffee in cafés. Cake and cuddles in a cosy corner.
Connection fuses and increases.
Now perhaps you know.
Shoots lengthen, bud and bloom.
The invisible thread.
A long journey homeward bound.
A lonely beaded bracelet in your place,
a vacuum where only moments ago
you dozed, lulled by whirring tarmac wheels.
Quiet replaces sing-a-long rhymes,
subdued silence descends.
Damp mascara cheeks. Limbs loose.
Throat choked, twisting tissues.
An inconspicuous cord,
mutually tangible, defying distance and time.
Slim strands grown thick and strong.
The invisible thread.
Salty, sticky fingers and sun cream kisses.
Bobbing on lilos. Bat and ball. Body board clutched
by bold ‘Queen of the Ocean’.
A howl of dramatic despair as sand
between toes tickles and itches.
Disaster soothed by towels and treats,
swimming costume and ice cream.
Time melts on beach hut lazy days.
Connection glows, fed and anchored.
Congruent, confident memories.
A thousand strands weave silver spirals.
The invisible thread.
More duvet cuddles at dawn.
Languid chatter, sipping tea, sharing my space.
Keen to be close. My hand held.
Eager energy bright and curious, quick to question.
Homework completed to a perfectionist’s standard.
Hair styles, searching for socks,
packing for riverside picnics.
Interconnection clearly communicated,
a synergised glance, a mirrored gesture.
Tendrils now deep roots, tenaciously entwined.
The invisible thread.
Wrapped gifts reflect Christmas lights,
rattled then hidden for treasure hunt quests.
Riddles and jokes. Entertainment and games.
Role-plays and drama.
A rehearsed duet couples the aroma
of roast, pudding and candles.
A ridiculous dance to disco classics then
mellowed by Aretha’s authentic refrains.
This connection, a bond like omnipresent
lithe laced arms, a continual current
flowing freely, fluidly, ‘twixt you and I.
The invisible thread.
'Would you like some help
to wipe that vomit from your top?’
I politely ask my friend as
she winds her child non-stop.
“Oh, I really shouldn’t worry,’ she says,
‘it’ll probably blend right in
with the other patch of baby puke,
the dribble, crumbs and gin.’
There are many ‘soon to be’ mothers here,
radiant with rotund tums.
As well as those who’ve popped sprogs out
and are already experienced mums.
Together, we are gathered to wish
one such expectant friend farewell.
She is on the cusp of her first foray into
her own exhausting, sleepless hell.
Meanwhile, a small squadron of cantankerous
two year olds toddle aimlessly around.
Our conversations left incomplete
as one of them face plants on the ground.
Cards and gifts are given generously.
Sugary cupcakes and booze-free tipples consumed.
A lady with a proud, protruding bump
discusses the contents of her womb.
Increasingly, it occurs to me
how out of place I really am.
The air is so thick with oestrogen,
it could trigger ovulation in a man!
I do attempt to natter
with another of my good friends,
but her child announces that he’s pooped himself
and there our conversation ends.
No, this is not the best environment
for those in situations such as mine.
For goodness sake, why did I neglect
to bring some alcoholic wine?
Swapping midwife stories, gender guessing,
births, big breasts and pregnancy.
I remain calmly composed
despite my contrasting reality.
Like new ships, they’re launched one by one
into the next phase of their lives.
Whilst I’m left wrestling with my own
unexpected, not quite so nice, surprise.
It’s not a competition, not a contest,
tournament nor race,
but next time I’m given ‘exciting’ baby news
My smile may not be fixed so quickly into place.
I am aware of the positives.
Unlike my friends, I’m not covered in sick or poo.
My favourite outfit is dribble free,
not a hint of snot or baby goo.
A stenchous whiff does not pervade the air,
wherever I choose to roam.
When I’ve had enough of noisy kids,
I seek shelter in my tranquil, child-free home.
But still this so called bright-side
that I can quite clearly see,
isn’t quite enough to completely outweigh
my growing sad, despondency.
Surrounded by these hormones,
babies, buggies and bulbous bumps,
it's another brutal, cruel and bitter blow
that adds to my hidden anguish every month.
I sense your eyes of judgement
bearing down on me.
I know you can’t understand it,
so naturally it’s hard for you to find empathy.
You haven’t been where I am
which makes me difficult to understand.
But rather than disappointed incomprehension,
I wish you’d reach out your hand.
But instead, you have unrealistic expectations.
One’s that I can never hope to meet.
As the chasm widens between us,
I battle a growing sense of defeat.
Two women world’s apart
at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Your ascent has brought you joy
whilst I’ve been sucked under by depression.
Unaware that it is the ‘black dog’
who has become the guardian of my cage’s key.
I pretend, trying to act ‘normal’
and not at my selfish gaoler’s mercy.
Alienated from those I love,
trapped in a cycle of misery,
shackled by my own self-loathing,
it’s from within these walls that I see.
I see you, seemingly proud and confident,
embracing the newest chapter of your life.
The Spring to my endless Winter,
flourishing, fertile, successful in your role as wife.
You are a celebration of womanhood,
a producer of grandparent’s heirs.
You’ve created and you’ve given light.
God has answered your secret prayers.
You are the success and I, the failure,
the mutant female, ashamed of whom I’ve become.
My body a barren betrayer,
unlike yours that has produced a golden son.
Yes, I sense your eyes of judgement
questioning my behaviour and response.
But I can’t do much about it.
My self-esteem, my inner strength are all but gone.
This atmosphere of expectation
is a heavy burden, I can’t fulfil.
I dread the knowledge that I will disappoint you
despite asserting great courage and strength of will.
I suppress my urge to shriek,
to grimace with grief and cry.
My fight or flight would like to run for it
without even pausing to explain why.
As best I can, I cover up this battle.
I remain suffocating slowly in this room.
I hide my physical and emotional shakes
and try not to sit here like a harbinger of doom.
I am sorry. I’m aware I may hurt you.
We co-exist in a growing cloud of tension.
I can see in your eyes of judgement
your invisible, yet tangible incomprehension.
Our daughter is a blessing,
a precious gift of life.
From chubby faced babe
to giggling girl.
One day a grown woman,
a strong leader
and perhaps a wife.
In her we see such potential,
As she passes through
each stage of youth,
we see glimpses of
the woman she'll one day be.
Her natural gifts are blossoming
with encouragement and praise.
We guide her through
the toughest times,
tears, terrors and tantrums.
She shines light into our days.
Our baby girl still really loves
cuddles and bedtime stories.
Yet, she's always had an
needing both space
and reassurance from her worries.
We've picked her up, counted
to ten when she has grazed
an elbow or a knee.
We sing to her,
ride bikes, climb trees,
put on fashion shows and funny plays.
This child of ours has exhausted us.
She is a complex, clever girl.
We teach her morals,
new words, geography
listen to music from 'round the world.
We give to her all we can.
Love, time, finance too.
It's tempting to spoil,
indulge her every whim,
but she must learn
restraint, respecting what is right and true.
We're instinctively protective
of our beautiful, zany girl.
Our pride and joy,
who we adore,
her character beginning to unfurl.
But our darling child doesn't
share my DNA.
She was created in your womb.
You gave birth,
you gave her life.
But we're both mothers in a different way.
We have so much in common,
but it's hard for you and I.
this special child is the reason why.
I've sacrificed a lot to raise
your daughter as my own,
but no gracious word, nor
no reaching out
to the other mother of her second home.
I too have rocked your baby
in my arms when she cannot sleep.
I too have cleared up sick,
played hours of hide and seek.
So I ask you to sit and talk with me,
show respect, not apprehension,
take an interest in my role.
banishing this pointless tension.
I'd like for us to demonstrate
what love can truly achieve.
For our daughter to feel a
sense of joy
as her mothers
display the real love in which we both believe.